I put on my hat, gloves and parka and step out into the sharp cold of the winter night. The snow crunches under my feet as I walk out the drive and down to the road, headed nowhere in particular. Itâ€™s very late on Christmas Eve, as I walk down the empty roads of a Northern Indiana night through the deep woods near my home.
I donâ€™t recall what year it was that I first began to take my Christmas Eve walk. It was a long time ago – maybe 30 years now, and since then, it has always been a mostly secret tradition with me. When all the festivities of Christmas Eve are done, once friends have gone off to midnight services, children off to bed, red suits with white fur trim packed away until next year and final gifts all wrapped – I take the time for myself … and undertake a little stroll through the brisk winter night.
Itâ€™s always a quiet time – a time to take a breath thatâ€™s a bit deeper than usual and an exhale thatâ€™s a bit longer – a step without a direction or a designated purpose. It’s a time to appreciate being alone and to take in the special life Iâ€™ve been blessed to live. It’s a time to express and feel my peace within the wilderness around me.
Most years Iâ€™ve walked alone down these roads on Christmas Eve, but occasionally friends have joined me, and together weâ€™ve walked through worlds of fresh falling snows, deep colds, mild winter nights – sometimes right along the frigid lake’s edge, down desolate roads or through the small town park and town band shell – all lit up for the holidays.
Weâ€™ve found it wildly fun to duck behind old oak trees, hiding from view of the occasional car that might be a well-intended offer of a ride. Several times, we’ve been spooked by the snort of a deer in the woods. Other times, Iâ€™ve walked to the top of a high dune and stood alone under the wide open winter sky. Other times, I’ve walked under the lights of our little town’s tall traditional tree that stands watch, as it always has – over every Christmas season. Year after year, the ritual repeats itself, and each and every time, at some point, Iâ€™ve quietly hummed “Silent Night” as I walked along.
I always knew that one year I would be at out at sea for Christmas. That persistent intuition has manifested itself this year, when I find myself in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean all by my lonesome, 800 miles east of the Caribbean, and pushing my way westward to my home continent of North America, onboard this most splendid of sailing vessels … Bodacious Dream!
Iâ€™ll still take my walk this Christmas Eve, but it wonâ€™t be as cold or as long as in past years, and any friends will be here in spirit only, as I will be walking alone fore and aft my little floating island – but it will be as special a walk as ever I have taken – only 40 feet to the bow and back again – a moment or two to take in the majesty of this vast oceanic landscape.
As I take my Christmas Eve walk this year, the hull beneath me will be skimming across the timeless waters of this undeniably amazing planet. These waters, through the cycle of eons – are kindred spirits to the snow crystals I trudged over so many Christmas Eve’s past. And though I am far removed from the place of my birth, I will feel at home – and all will be peaceful and all will be silent this Christmas Eve night.
I hope that you, and those dear to you, have a most special holiday, celebrated in your own most special way.
- Dave & Bodacious Dream